Deepak Pathania is the co-founder of HackSociety.TECH, a group of passionate hackers and community enablers, that empowers hackers to organise and attend cool hackathons across India. In this interview, Deepak talks about the state of the Indian hack-o-sphere and how HackSociety.TECH is leading the change in this space.
Tell us about HackSociety.TECH. What inspired you to start it?
At HackSociety, we are trying to promote the technology culture among student developers in India. We do this by motivating them to learn by implementing, primarily in innovation-driven events like hackathons. We are trying to improve the standard of hackathons in India by collaborating with organizers and providing them with ample support and resources to pull off a great event while fostering the right learning environment.
HackSociety is something that we started because of our firsthand experiences. It was after going to and winning many hackathons that we realized that there was no set standard of such events happening in India. We also noticed how sponsors were rarely returning to second editions of events because of the poor ROI they got at the first one. We felt that there was an overall disconnect from both ends and decided to do something about it.
We decided to organize a hackathon, Clash Hacks, on our own, to face the struggles an organizer faces; and to deal with sponsors directly to understand what they generally expect out of such events. The hackathon turned out to be a huge success! The experience reassured us that there was a huge need for what we were planning to do and within a span of 2 months, we partnered with 4 more hackathons to validate our concept.
How are the hackathons in India different from the ones that take place in the US or Europe? What needs to change to make Indian hackathons at par with similar global events?
Hackathons in India differ from the foreign ones primarily in their culture and the mentorship involved in them. Globally hackathons are better planned, have a standard to abide by, have great mentors and fosters a very fun learning environment for people to build stuff. That is exactly what we find missing in hackathons taking place in India.
To be honest, the quality of projects does not differ a lot. I have seen some amazing hacks at Indian hackathons that are on par with what is built at any global event, if not better. Having a certain standard to abide by would greatly help in elevating the situation since some poorly organized hackathons tend to discourage a lot of developers from attending again in the future. Another thing that is great about major foreign hackathons is that they are developer centric. This essentially means that they do not try to convert the entire event into a promotional campaign of certain companies; which generally happens here in India, hindering the spirit of the hackathon. The promotional methods there are subtle yet effective, which need to be implemented here as well so that the event revolves around helping developers build better projects.
What are some of the changes that you have observed in the Indian hackathon scene over the last few years? What trends do you expect to see in India over the coming years?
There has been an exponential rise in the number of corporate hackathons in the last few years in India. Companies are realizing the importance of maintaining developer relations and how recruitment through hackathons makes much more sense than traditional hiring methods. Companies are also beginning to understand that hackathons are an ideal place for API acquaintance and product promotions; thus, more and more challenges at these events revolve around them. At HackSociety, we are trying to collaborate with the right corporate partners who can use our experience to pull off better corporate events.
Moreover, there has been a rise in the number of offline hackathons, which is great. I personally believe that the whole point of a hackathon is fostering the right environment for developers; which is not possible in virtual challenges. The fact that the Indian government realized the potential of hackathons through the Smart India Hackathon indicates a positive shift towards the upliftment of technology culture. The themes of hackathons have seen a major improvement as well. From generic themes like ‘Women Safety’ and ‘Healthcare’, we are now moving towards problem statements like Information Overload, Big Data Analysis, AR/VR, image processing, NLP, AI, etc. This has led to an overall improvement in the quality of projects as well.
Do you think Indian brands are looking at hackathons as a recruitment platform?
Definitely. Traditional hiring challenges and campus drives are broken in the sense that they do not allow companies to judge candidates based on what they would actually be doing in the organization. Hackathons not only eliminate that by allowing companies to see developers’ potential based on a weekend project, but also provide a filtered set of audience, to begin with. The devs who show up at hackathons after going through the selection process are evidently good developers and that eliminates a lot of work for organizations looking for good talent. We believe that hackathons would soon be adopted by major tech brands for recruitment purposes.
At HackSociety, we are trying to act as catalysts in this shift by building a portal where developers get incentivized for attending more and more hackathons. A dev can build her or his profile on our portal that keeps getting updated as she/he attends more of our member events; adding credibility and visibility to the profile among organizations looking for people in the same field.
We are, thus, incentivizing developers to do what they love doing and get better job opportunities because of that. How cool is that?
How is HackSociety.TECH bridging the gap between brands and students?
We are trying to provide a bifold solution catering to the needs of both organizers and brands while making sure the attendees have an amazing experience at every event we collaborate with.
We are starting India’s first hackathon league with multiple events being organized under our banner that would help us connect the best brands with the most amazing student developers at scale through multiple events. As seasoned hackers, we know what drives students to these events (SWAG, obviously) and we try to partner with brands looking for visibility among such an audience to deliver a wonderful experience to students.
Interesting hackers from India
- Gur Raunaq and Ashish Gulati who you can find at most hackathons, work with some cool stuff in AR.
- Aakash Bansal is a hardware hacker from MSIT, Delhi who has won a lot of hackathons by building hardware projects. He once told me, “Hackathons makes the inner kid of yours come out to think about the most basic problems we always face.”
- Arun Rajora generally goes to hackathons alone, makes the most amazing projects and rarely ever pitches them with the objective of winning. From web to android, machine learning to native app development, Unity to UWP, he can probably do everything.
- Manoj Pandey, who won Policy Hack and got a trip to Harvard as the prize, made the whole hackathon scene mainstream in most of the Indraprastha University colleges. His advice to beginner hackers: “Find a hackathon near you, and just show up – don’t stop on the thought that you are at a very early stage and simply enjoy.”
- Desh Raj recently won the 1st prize at VT Hacks, an MLH event. He is an open source enthusiast and actively contributes to a lot of amazing projects. He will soon be joining Georgia Tech as a Masters of Computer Science Student.
- Aman Priyadarshi wrote an OS in C# from scratch! People like him drive the entire community to do better in the field of development and that’s why he deserves a mention here.
- Mayank Tripathi, a new hacker, who is working as a Google Summer of Code intern at FOSSASIA on Susi Android and AI. He recently won the Smart India Hackathon organized by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Govt of India.
- Ananay Arora, a high school student, who has won a lot of hackathons including Angel Hack and NASA Space Apps Challenge.
Why did you choose a .TECH domain for Hack Society? How does it resonate with your partners and target audience?
We partnered with .TECH for Clash Hacks and had an amazing time. The .TECH team was quite supportive throughout the event. Moreover, it was a cool domain name to have for a tech event like a hackathon.
When we were planning to start HackSociety it occurred to us that a .TECH domain would convey very easily what we are trying to build. The community that we are attempting to create can easily relate to the vision .TECH has and we believed that it would be a clever domain name to have.
We are now planning to get into a long term collaboration with .TECH to promote the tech culture here in India.
Organizing a hackathon at your school, university or workplace? We’d love to partner with you! Get in touch with us at [email protected]!